LON­DON

The Pak Banker - - INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS/SPORTS -

Bronte Cap­i­tal chief calls for the board of the Bri­tish mo­bile phone gi­ant to be sacked if it sells its stake in Ver­i­zon Wire­less Voda­fone has sur­ren­dered any right to de­cide its des­tiny af­ter a decade of "in­com­pe­tence" and "fail­ure" and should put it­self up for sale, a lead­ing Aus­tralian hedge fund boss said.

In a sear­ing cri­tique of the Bri­tish mo­bile gi­ant's global em­pire, John Hemp­ton of Bronte Cap­i­tal has called for the board to be sacked if it sells the com­pany's most pre­cious as­set, a 4 per cent stake in the lead­ing US car­rier Ver­i­zon Wire­less.

The hold­ing could be worth $115 bil­lion (£75 bil­lion) to Ver­i­zon Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the fixed-line phone com­pany which owns the other 55 per cent, and there has been spec­u­la­tion Voda­fone could cash in and spend the money on Euro­pean ex­pan­sion.

In a widely read blog­post on Wed­nes­day, Hemp­ton said sell­ing Ver­i­zon would mark out "an im­por­tant part of the Bri­tish busi­ness es­tab­lish­ment" as "both ve­nal and in­com­pe­tent".

He added: "With the demon­strated record of fail­ure of Voda­fone over the past decade, Voda­fone has sur­ren­dered its right to make a deal any deal which leaves man­age­ment to squan­der the pro­ceeds from the best as­set they have the only as­set they did not man­age."

Bronte's third-largest share­hold­ing is Voda­fone and it has taken a long hedge po­si­tion on the stock, which means it as­sumes the share price will rise. It would pre­fer ei­ther no deal, or for Ver­i­zon to buy the Bri­tish com­pany out­right be­cause sell­ing just the US busi­ness would in­cur a huge tax bill.

An­a­lysts at Bern­stein Re­search ten­ta­tively es­ti­mate the tax bill on any Ver­i­zon wind­fall would be around $20 bil­lion.

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